Hurricane Idalia Reveals New Type Of Crisis Responders Have To Plan For
Reports of electric vehicles catching fire throughout Florida have emerged in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, with vehicles located in Pinellas Park and Palm Harbor affected by the saltwater from the storm surge.
Palm Harbor Fire Rescue shared a statement warning about the risks of lithium-ion battery exposure to saltwater. “Salt particles get into the battery and other electrical components and they act as a conductor, leading to a short circuit and eventually a fire,” the statement read.
The Weather Channel’s Danielle Banks shared similar sentiments in an explanatory video, cautioning that these risks still exist “for weeks after a storm.” Banks added that the battery packs “are encased in metal and hard to get to at the bottom of the cars,” resulting in an ignition that “takes tens of thousands of gallons of water and hours of firefighting to extinguish and even then may reignite days later.”
Electric vehicle owners — including those of golf carts and electric scooters — were urged to relocate any vehicle that had encountered saltwater, with Tesla providing instructions on what those owners should do in the case of weather-related flooding. Such instructions include treating the vehicle “as if it has been in an accident and contact[ing] your insurance company,” not operating the vehicle without an inspection from an authorized shop, and getting the vehicle towed or otherwise moved at least 50 feet away from structures or combustible materials.
Hurricane Idalia began over Florida’s Gulf Coast last Wednesday before sweeping across the state and neighboring states, resulting in power and service outages that have affected thousands. Authorities had pushed for the relocation of electric vehicles before the storm’s arrival, but the reports of fire in the aftermath indicate that this risk was still present.
The issue of electric vehicle fire risk has become even more pressing in the midst of the Biden administration’s push to move away from gasoline-burning vehicles. USA Today reported that at least 21 electric vehicles were known to have burned in the flooding caused by Hurricane Ian in 2020, out of an estimated 358,000 damaged vehicles. This points to the need for further development of safety protocols surrounding electric vehicles’ use and storage.